Authentic Christianity: (from a sermon, entitled, “Songs of Identity; celebrating His “I” in us”). I gave this talk twice this year, and wanted to share some excerpts around this theme of evangelism from true identity) Enjoy!
My most basic message today is taken from David’s celebration of himself in Psalm 139, and Paul’s words, in Ephesians, about the paths prepared beforehand to be our way. Paul’s idea in this passage (Eph 2:10), is that we each have specific paths, or ways of being, which are uniquely ours to walk on, which God has made and nuanced, to be our way. And that He takes pleasure from us being on these paths, and manifests His Kingdom through them! We are God’s eternal poems-little highways- in short, and He celebrates Himself and His Own Nature through making us more thoroughly ourselves, more clearly on our unique pathways–or more fully human in this sense.
One friend has said, the Glory of God shines through our truly being ourselves. There is a needed celebration of our uniquely human identity. Jesus became fully human, so that we also could become truly ourselves. He impregnated humanity with the potential to become what it was originally intended to be–a huge book of poetry which God wrote! And The Father is the one who causes our lives to be pronounced. He is into the business of self expression. The earth itself declares the Glory and Identity of God! And the Christian’s task is to baptize others into His Name or Identity. In so doing, we enter into our own. “Not I, but Christ” also means, we finally find the true “I” by entering into the Life of Jesus.
This transformational process of becoming who we truly are is His Discipleship of self. And it is our life’s journey.
Many Christians feel that to celebrate self in any way is “selfish”. This has kept the church from having authentic ministry. To deny ourselves, or take up our cross, is not to eradicate our identity. It is to serve Him from it. Much of the church has not had an authentic expression because of this hidden doctrine of hatred of self. It is good to hate our sinful nature, but not good to hate our humanity itself! You see historically that when we do hate our own humanity, we divide ourselves; and, we have to divide Jesus’ Identity up as well. This has led to Gnostic teachings and docetism and other ways of misrepresenting who Christ is. When we offer a divided identity to the world, we also misrepresent God. And present inauthentic expressions.
Someone recently asked me how they could make a Christian “outreach” authentic. Be yourself, and make what you are passionate about! If you do not like coffee, do not open a coffee shop! If you do not like music, do not start a christian music festival etc. Much mediocrity has happened in the name of evangelism. But a true kingdom evangelism, will include authentic expression, because it will celebrate our unique identities! Our expressions of His Life in us, flow out from our true identity! What are we really passionate about? This is a good place to start!
Jesus told Peter who He was, and blessed Him. Jesus knew the unique identities of each of His disciples and that was how He chose to vessel or carry the good news. And again, what we see on The Cross is Jesus laying down His Life. He knew who He was, and chose to serve. He did not have amnesia on the Cross! If He had forgotten His Identity on the Cross, we would all be in trouble. He knew exactly what He was laying down. In this sense, Jesus was not victimized by The Cross. He chose it.
We cannot lay down something we do not yet realize we have! The Christian is the one who knows themselves, because they know the Gate to true humanity is in Christ. To become fully human is to enter the Life of Christ! Then we are free to celebrate the nuances of our lives as a celebration of God’s creativity. We become living portents or signs as David prayed to be!
Each of us reflects unique aspects of who God is. This is why each human life has value and dignity. If we fail to celebrate ourselves, in some ways, we are rejecting who God is, and how He has chosen to reveal Himself. He made humans as the crown of His Creation. To hate our uniqueness is to reject who God is. In this sense, David, looks around at creation and says–wow, what a God! Then he looks at himself and sees that, he too, is fearfully and wonderfully made, and again praises God. This is the way of self celebration! And this celebrating ourselves, attracts people to our God!
In this sense, the celebration of true identity, is a way of evangelizing or demonstrating who God is. God is attractive by Nature. And we also attract others to Him, by becoming what we truly are. We are the songs of identity in Him! For the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. We are His Poetry meant to reveal who He truly is!
I recently attended an Arts Festival which was started by believers. They did not call it a Christian arts festival. They are artists, and wanted to make a great arts festival. The festival was “christian” in that it flows out of their identities in Christ. But the festival was not a trick of manipulating people into Christianity. I studied why and how their expression was so unique and inviting to people wherever each person was at on their journey in life. I realized that the festival was authentically flowing out of who these people really were. These people were merely celebrating how they are made, and what they are passionate about. This created an event which is one of the fastest growing and reproductive, unique, and simply excellent quality level events I’ve seen! Truly inspiring!
Much like David’s poetry was an authentic expression of his spirituality with God; so this event, is a Kingdom event flowing from true identity and, out through an authentic expression. And it bears good fruit! A tree is still known by its fruit. If the fruit does not suit the tree, it is obvious and people reject that fruit. We are meant to reproduce and express after our kind. This is authentic expression. If we do not know what kind we are, we can’t really express it! True identity, is the key to authentic evangelism–or drawing our brothers and sisters further towards and into His Life in the Kingdom! Our outward expressions come from our true identity. When the two align the fruit is authentically good!
We often quote and look to writers like CS Lewis, as being real authentic expressions of Christianity. Why is that? His expressions came from who he really was. His imagination had been baptized and was authentic and not timid or intimidated to express His true self. Francis Shaeffer, another authentic Christian voice and thinker, was less an artist, and more a philosopher than CS Lewis; but, was similarly authentic to his true self! So he expressed cultural theory, theology, and history. This was true to who he was. Each of us has a unique expression coming from a unique identity! So we each have uniquely shaped spheres of influence (the pleasant lines of our inheritance)! This is how it should be with all those who have been liberated internally by The Living God! Our expressions should be unique and authentic because we are becoming integrated in Christ, and can freely express from who we really are! Then our fruit suits the tree, and the world around us is blessed. The more each of us expresses from true identity, the more The Kingdom comes into the areas uniquely given to us to possess and cultivate! When we are truly being ourselves, we enter the precise pleasant lines of our inheritance which He has intended for us to dwell in!